Volunteer Fire Departments Rely on County Sales Tax
Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2012
A 1% county sales tax is up for renewal on the June 26 ballot, and this has volunteer fire fighters anxious about what voters will do.
The tax produced revenues of about $86,000 per month last year with 10%, or about $8,600, per month going toward county fire protection.
“It’s not much, but it’s close to half of what we get for the entire year,” said Wesley Dill, chair of the county fire chiefs’ association and chief of the Jimtown Volunteer Fire Department.
The association divided its tax revenue 15 ways, with one share for each of the 14 volunteer fire departments and one share voted by the association.
That worked out to about $550 per month for the departments.
“Last year when we got busy with wildfires, the Jimtown Fire Department spent $1,000 a month, just in fuel,” Dill said.
“We got about $4,200 total from the state last year. We rely on department fundraisers for anything else,” Dill said.
Chief Marcella Kirk said the Greenville Fire Department pays insurance on its building and equipment and last year made some repairs to trucks and pumps.
“I don’t know what we would do without the county money. Last year, state funds were cut. This is not a lot of money but it helps.”
Kirk also is treasurer of the Love County EMS, which receives 5% or about $4,300 per month last year from the tax.
“We use that for replacement of vehicles. Every other year, we purchase an ambulance. We want those guys in the best vehicles we can get them in. They take good care of them and do good maintenance.”
Last year, the fire chiefs’ association used accrued funds of $15,000 to purchase a station for refilling the breathing tanks that firefighters strap on their backs, Dill said.
Other agencies sharing in the sales tax revenue include senior citizens centers (5%) and the OSU Extension Office (5%).
County government and county offices receive the rest to use for maintenance and operating expenses.
The fire chiefs’ association was formed in 1987. There were only 10 department members at the time.
The next year, voters initiated the 1% county sales tax in support of county fire protection and other agencies. The tax became effective April 1, 1989.
Voters have renewed the tax every five years since 1992, according to county clerk Shelly Russell.
Four additional volunteer fire departments are sharing in the revenues.
But the revenues are growing also. County clerk records show that in 1995 the tax raised $320,000.
In 2012, the total had risen to $1,028,000 (about $86,000 per month).
Passage of liquor-by-the drink and subsequent tax collections from spirits sold at the casino and elsewhere in the county have made an impact since 2008, Russell said.
David Bond, vice president of the Love County Emergency Planning Committee, has insight on the issue.
“I say fire department guys are crazy. They volunteer to go into burning houses and they don’t get paid. They need all the county money they can get and all the help we can give them.”
In volunteer organizations, all help is welcome.
“I just want to emphasize how much we as fire departments appreciate all types of funding and good will that we receive -- state, county, and from the people themselves through donations and support, Dill said.”
(Editor's Note: The sales tax renewal passed with more than 80% approval).